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ORLANDO, The Pittsburgh Steelers have agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract with versatile returner Cordarrelle Patterson, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, hours after the NFL adopted new rules.

After returning in a historically low season in 2023, the revised rules are expected to emphasize the return game, making Patterson’s role critical.

Patterson, now under Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith with the Atlanta Falcons, has nine career kick return touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2013 to tie for the NFL’s all-time leader in the category. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he has three times as many punt returns as any other player during that span.

In the year The Steelers finally scored a touchdown in 2017 when JuJu Smith-Schuster took one 96 yards into the end zone against the Cleveland Browns. The team has struggled to find a consistent return man through the 2023 season using a combination of players. Previous practice squad additions included Godwin Igwebuike and running back Anthony McFarland.

Patterson His role with the Falcons has diminished in 2023, due in part to increased personnel and changes to the NFL’s primary kickoff rule, which made kickbacks more widespread. He set career lows in punts (7), return yardage (153) and yards per return (21.9) last season.

In an offense that had the most opportunities of his career since he was 30, he had 50 carries for 181 yards — his lowest total since 2019 — and nine catches for 38 yards and one touchdown, his worst numbers since 2015. He is in his third year in the league.

Patterson, 33, had a career-best season with 1,166 yards (618 rushing, 548 receiving) in 2020 as a hybrid running back/receiver with the Falcons.

He was selected 29th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 draft. Since then, he has played in 170 games (60 starts) and has 514 carries for 2,511 yards and 22 touchdowns with 298 carries for 2,795 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also played for the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.

In addition to the record, Patterson ranks 17th all-time in punt returns (273), ninth in yardage (7,989) and third in punt returns at 29.3, behind Gale Sayer (30.6 from 1965-71) and Lynn Chandnois (29.6 from 1950-56).

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.